Most people in our society feel stress from time to time. A little stress can be a positive motivator to be prepared to do well in a job interview or practice for that speech you're giving. But most stress, like when you have too many demands on your time such as meeting deadlines, or juggling work, household tasks and childcare, isn't good for you. If you don't address it, it can become chronic and affect your physical and emotional health and well being.
It may seem like there's nothing you can do about it. The bills, job and other tasks or life transitions won't go away. But in fact, there are several simple things you can do. First, realize you can take charge of your life. Acknowledge the stress you have, rather than explain it away as temporary or just how things are.
Here a some tips for immediate relief:
- Disconnect from your electronic devices and move to a different physical location, either outside or to a room where you always feel good. Being out in nature is extremely calming and uplifting. The Japanese have a practice they call "forest bathing." It simply means walking or sitting among trees in the forest. It's beneficial not only for the oxygen trees produce, but also the oils they emit that support our immune systems. Being among trees has been shown to lower blood pressure, and reduce stress hormones. If you have a woods, park or nature center nearby, take advantage!
- Breathe: This may seem too simple to be effective—but don't let that fool you. We breathe shallowly and even hold our breath when stressed. Breathing deeply elicits a "relaxation response" and can be done anywhere! To begin, sit still and tall somewhere comfortable. Close your eyes and being breathing through your nose. Then, inhale for a count of two... hold the breath in for a count of one... exhale gently, counting out for four... and finish by holding the breath out for a count of one. Keep your breathing even and smooth. After some practice, if the 2-4 count seems to fast, try inhaling for 4, exhaling for 6. The exhale needs to be longer than the inhale to signal your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.
- Music: What music always makes you feel good? I have a playlist I made of songs that bring my vibration up. Music has the power to change your brainwaves. Sing along! Singing allows you to find your soul's note, which will always feel good.
- Move your body: Dance, take a walk, do yoga, t'ai chi, lift weights, swim, play a sport—whatever feels like fun to you. Physical activity is a huge stress reliever. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction from your daily worries. Build up your fitness level gradually. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day.
- Ask the right questions: Questions like,"What if this all turned out easier than I could have possibly imagined?" "What if everything works out beautifully?" "Why does everything seem to work out for me?" allows your subconscious mind to by-pass the stressful, fearful thoughts and open up to inspired solutions. You don't need to get your answers in that red hot moment. Just ask, trust, feel better and let it go. You'll be surprised at the answers that show up and how easily it will all work out.
Don't try to "power through" a stressful situation, ignoring your feelings. When we acknowledge our feelings, we are empowered to do something about them. Our feelings have messages for us, and by acknowledging them, they dissipate more easily. By ignoring stressful feelings, it can become chronic and dangerous to you. Also, avoid making important decisions when under stress. Stress triggers the "freeze, fight or flight" response. This causes our brains to pump out adrenaline and for the blood to go to the hind brain, where the "freeze, flight or fight response" is located. You simply aren't thinking clearly when stressed. Instead, follow one of the suggestions above to bring yourself into a more relaxed state.
And of course, good daily habits like getting enough rest, eating healthy foods, meditating and taking time to enjoy yourself around happy, positive people will help you strengthen your coping muscles!